Seven toy stores offering delivery in Toronto—plus their picks for crafts, puzzles and backyard games to keep kids entertained
After two months of sheltering in place with kids, most parents are likely finding their patience levels and in-house activities are running low. Luckily, there are a few local toy stores who will bring the latest in kids’ entertainment to your front door. We asked shopkeepers for their pandemic-approved recommendations, from brain-busting science projects to backyard games that will help kids blow off some steam.
This Roncesvalles toy store doesn’t have an online shop yet, but it has been connecting with customers and fulfilling orders through phone, e-mail and Instagram. Manager Megan Holtz says Instagram has been easiest, since it mimics in-store interactions and staff can quickly send photos of what’s in stock and make recommendations based on ages and interests. They are offering curb-side pickup as well as west-end delivery. “It’s been a huge shift,” says Megan. “Toy stores are fun places to be in—we sell colourful things designed to delight, and we love interacting with our customers. We went from a vivid social neighbourhood experience to working alone, typing on a computer.” She says they’ve already noticed a few pandemic trends: at the beginning, paint, paper and craft supplies were the most popular. Then it was games and puzzles, then activity workbooks. Now shoppers are craving physical activities that can be done in a backyard.
Megan’s pandemic picks:
HearthSong Golf Pool ($115): “This is a mash-up of mini golf and billiards. It’s an indoor game that’s still physical, and it can also easily be set up indoors. It appeals to a wide range of ages—even that teen in your quarantine bubble who refuses to play board games. The combination of golf and pool encourages a healthy dose of silliness, which we all need right now.”
Pogo Sticks (from $60): “Pogo Sticks were made for times like these. You don’t need a whole lot of outdoor space, and the workout will burn up some of your kids’ pent-up energy while relieving anxiety. Repetitive bouncing is somehow both invigorating and relaxing. Make sure you select your model based on your child’s weight, not their age.”
This indie toy store in Lawrence Park—the oldest in Toronto—has been using Instagram and Facebook to help customers pick their products. They’ll take orders over the phone, via email or on social media, and have been providing daily local delivery and curb-side pickups. They’re currently stocked with a full range of games and puzzles for kids and adults, along with crafts, building toys, sports items and backyard activities.
Owner Shari Brick’s pandemic picks:
Spikeball ($80): “The weather is warming up, and this is an exhilarating and athletic game to play with the family in the backyard.”
Sidewalk chalk (from $5): “This creative outdoor activity will entertain any crafty family member—and help you playfully communicate with your neighbours and community.”
Diamond Dotz (from $18): “A cool crafting activity where kids create stunning designs using tiny diamond-like facets. It has been super-popular among teens and even adults looking for soothing alternatives to screens and puzzles.”
This trendy Queen West clothing and toy shop has moved to an online-only model since the pandemic. They sell all kinds of child-friendly clothing, shoes and decor, but owner Lisa Miyasaki has found that most of their recent sales have been toys, to keep kids busy at home. “Our products that focus on open-ended learning have been working well for parents who want to help stimulate creative playing with their children,” says Lisa.
Lisa’s pandemic picks:
Waytoplay’s Expressway ($80): “Waytoplay’s road sets are made with high-quality rubber and can be used both in and out of doors. They have a great Instagram page that shows all the ways they can be used for play.”
Moulin Roty Torch sets ($20): “These torches encourage kids to explore the art of storytelling. They insert a colourful story disc into a flashlight and shine projected images onto a flat surface. They can buy different disc sets to create new storylines.”
After a decade in Rosedale, this chic children’s boutique closed their storefront in January because the building is set to be demolished. They’re operating online as usual (the team is working remotely to fill orders), and are also offering curb-side pickup from their concept shop at 1 Rowanwood Ave.
Co-owner Emily Dyer’s pandemic picks:
Kukkia Machi Wooden Town playset ($62): “Kukkia is a wooden design company from Japan. The Machi contains two magnetic chalkboards that attach to each other, along with buildings, trees, mountains, traffic signals, cars and chalk to draw on the boards. They can all be rearranged for exciting imaginary play.”
Grimm’s Set of 15 Blocks with Bark in Net Bag ($55): “This German toymaker makes simple, beautiful wooden toys suitable for all ages. These blocks have bark on one side, so kids can create magical imaginary worlds that are connected to our woodlands and forests.”
This Danforth shop was forced to lay off all 10 of their employees when the province declared a state of emergency. Co-owners Lori Parker and Katie MacKinnon have moved all sales online, and take turns fulfilling orders from the shop. They ship nationwide with Canada Post, and offer same-day local delivery with Mile 1. Delivery is free for orders over $75, and $10 for all other others (they donate 20 per cent Michael Garron Hospital). Since the pandemic hit, they’ve seen a shift towards puzzles, crafting supplies and games. “Anything to keep kids entertained at home,” Lori says. “There’s been such a demand for puzzles and sidewalk chalk that we’re having trouble keeping them in stock.”
Lori’s pandemic picks:
Plus Plus Basic Suitcase ($40): “Plus Plus is a great building toy from Denmark. It consists of 600 identical pieces, which can be used to create two-dimensional mosaics or three-dimensional models. You can follow instructions to create a specific model or use your imagination. This toy is stimulating for quarantine, and encourages fine motor development and creativity.”
Aaron’s Putty, Epic Amethyst ($15): “We’ve carried Aaron’s Putty for years, and it has always been a favourite. It’s silicone-based, non-toxic and doesn’t dry out. The Epic Amethyst changes from deep purple to pink as it warms up in your hands. It’s mesmerizing. We all need a bit of a stress relief in quarantine, and the texture of this putty is perfect for both kids and adults to play with while listening to online classes or participating in Zoom meetings.”
Shamie Ramgoolam, who runs this Danforth shop, says she’s noticed a huge demand for educational and creative toys over the past two months. The store is offering virtual shopping appointments, where Shamie hops on a video call with a client and provides custom recommendations based on what’s in stock. She’s also curated newborn baby gift boxes, at several price points, which can be shipped across the country with Canada Post. They offer free local delivery for orders over $25.
Shamie’s pandemic picks:
Just Jump It Skipper ($10): “This skipper is fun and affordable. It promotes agility, coordination and balance—and it’s a great indoor-outdoor cardio option for bored kids.”
Playmobil (from $13): “The whole Playmobil line is great for kids up to 12 years old. Playmobil 1-2-3 is totally transportable for a busy toddler: it fits perfectly in their hands and encourages early role playing. Playmobil 4+ encourages kids to engineer their own make-believe worlds, developing their imagination, creativity, problem-solving and storytelling abilities.”
Since the pandemic, Mastermind has found new ways to connect with parents and kids through social media. They do a daily live story time, weekly virtual birthday parties and offer all kinds of printable activities (organized by age) on their website. Their customer service hours have been extended, and they’ve been able to maintain a steady supply of hard-to-find puzzles, science kits and workbooks for educating kids while staying home. Mastermind recently launched curb-side pickup, and they offer delivery through their website (it’s free for orders over $35).
Marketing and brand VP Susan Anderson’s pandemic-approved picks:
Lego Dots Rainbow Jewelry Stand ($20): “Kids use their creativity and building skills by creating new and fun designs. These are quick and enjoyable arts and crafts projects that provide an immediate sense of accomplishment and pride. They can play over and over and never get bored.”
Green Science Potato Clock ($20): “With these kits, kids create a real working digital clock powered by potatoes. It promotes STEM, reinforces fundamentals of science and has a great wow factor once complete.”